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The Communicators

News/Business. People who shape the digital future.

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00:30:00

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San Francisco, CA, USA

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Comcast Cable

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Channel 17 (141 MHz)

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mpeg2video

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ac3

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704

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480

TOPIC FREQUENCY

Fcc 5, U.s. 4, Manhattan 3, Wyoming 2, Mcdowell 2, Robert Mcdowell 2, Dubai 2, At&t 2, L.a. 1, Chicago 1, Verizon 1, New York City 1, Rick Kaplan 1, Violet 1, Mexico 1, Brzezinski 1, Bill Nelson 1, Commissioner Mcdowell 1, Michelle Ellison 1, Robert Kaplan 1,
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  CSPAN    The Communicators    News/Business. People who  
   shape the digital future.  

    March 25, 2013
    8:00 - 8:30am EDT  

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>> royce on u.s. policy towards the asia-pacific region. then former national security adviser brzezinski discussing the situation in iraq and iran's nuclear program. and later, the lebanon-based islamic militant group and political party that's been designated a terrorist organization by the united states.
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>> host: and robert mcdowell is the senior republican on the federal communications commission. commissioner mcdowell, i want to start with the topic of spectrum. robert kaplan of the national association of broadcasters was quoted yesterday as saying that he thinks that the current spectrum auction schedule is doomed to failure because there's too many issues to work out and because of those issues there won't be enough interest by parties to participate in the auction. >> guest: first of all, thank you for having me back. it's great to be here. and what you're talking about is the incentive auction, so congress passed a law last year giving tv broadcasters a financial incentive to relinquish system or all of their spectrum in exchange for money, obviously, that would then be used for wireless broadband purposes. so we at the fcc are busy trying to analyze public comment for
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what will literally be the most complex spectrum auction in world history. it actually is the truth. and it has three components which i'll get to in a minute. i've expressed caution, not doom and gloom as you just presented it, but caution in terms of when that will happen and how it will happen. i'm not sure it will yield quite as much spectrum as was first advertised. some of the first chatter was it would yield 120 megahertz which is a lot of spectrum. that was pared back to 80 megahertz because people had forgotten about interference issues with canada and mexico, then some estimates back to 60 megahertz. does that mean new york city? that's the equivalent of about ten -- excuse me, six tv stations going off the air, and there's the potential for channel sharing and all that. of so that would take a lot of broadcasters in these major markets. but it is complex. rick kaplan's absolutely right in that we need to be careful.
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there are a lot of moving parts here, and there does not seem to be a lot of agreement among the commenting parties, the people who have given us their thoughts and ideas regarding the notice of proposing rulemaking that we launched last year. so the three segments are the reverse auction, how cheaply will a broadcaster give up their spectrum for, the forward auction, how expensively will a wireless broadband provider pay for that spectrum, and then there's the repacking aspect. so for broadcasters who stay on the air, where would they be hoe candidated on the dial -- located on the dial, and where would the wireless broadband companies be located on the dial, and what kind of interference concerns would there be? all these are very technical. we have fabulous engineers at the fcc. we need more of them, by the way, please send in your applications, but these are very complex. they should be driven by the
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data. and it could very well be that it takes longer than expected for the spectrum auction to actually happen. >> well, commissioner, in this whole process i would imagine one of the threshold issues is how do do you entice broadcastes to participate, because if they don't give up the airwaves, there are no airwave toss the people who sell us our blackberries and cell phones. so what can be done to allay the broadcasters' concerns? >> guest: right. i think keeping the auction simple helps, and that would help all parties. i'm the only person left on the commission who's a veteran of the two largest spectrum auctions in u.s. history, one in 2006 and one in 2008. and i learned a lot with those auctions, and one is try to keep it as simple as you can. one question i have, and i haven't drawn any conclusions, but is whether or not this idea of of combining that reverse auction with a forward auction in a simultaneous way which is what the notice of proposed
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rulemaking suggested. is that overly complex? are you giving potential bidders and/or broadcasters enough data to make their decisions? there's theory on both sides of that and a lot of intelligent thought going into both sides, but i do think we need to think long and hard about do you keep that in sort of a opaque, black box when the builders aren't quite sure what it is that's available to be bid on? and then in the meantime there's supposed to be this software which was put out for comment and public inspection that would help with this repacking program after each bidding round. i've probably already lost both of you in terms of how complex this is. but keeping it simple is step one and, step two, there'll have to be a financial incentive. where we need it most are in the larger, more crowded cities. and this is where they're the more eyeballs looking at tv and the more opportunity to make money if you're a broadcaster. so that's going to be harder to
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entice them to yield. some will, indeed, but maybe not as many as we would have liked. >> so do we need to offer a uniform price so that airwaves in the midwest go for the same in new york, or do we end up with different values in different markets? >> guest: different values in different markets is the way to go. maybe broadcasters in wyoming would love that if they were getting manhattan prices, but i'm not sure the folks in manhattan would go for that because they might feel undercut by this almost cross-subsidization with the folks in wyoming. the way we've been able to accomplish these in the past has been by geographic market. >> host: how many megahertz are we talking about without involving government-run spectrum? >> guest: so we'll drill down on your question there in a minute,
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want to know more about what you're thinking there. so each tv station runs traditionally on six megahertz. it's possible for them to channel share three megahertz apiece. so if you add up those six or those threes, it takes a lot to free up enough spectrum to get to that 60 that folks want in manhattan or chicago or l.a. so can you find, let's say, 10, 15 broadcasters or maybe more in the new york market to give up their spectrum or to share with others depending on how you want to use your math to get there? so what did you mean by the government-run spectrum? >> host: well, will government-run spectrum be part of this auction process? >> guest: there were some stories was it late last year, todd, about whether or not there'd be some nationwide, government-run, free wireless broadband network? maybe it was earlier this year, actually. >> earlier this year, yeah. >> guest: and there was just no basis to that. folks were confusing and conflating the idea of
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unlicensed spectrum. i've been a proponent of what we call the tv white spaces, these are the unused tv channels in certain markets, and they're sort of scraps of spectrum, if you will, carpet remnants in a way, and it's more ideal for low-powered devices. i'm a little skeptical of a nationwide block of let's say 30 megahertz. that's a big chunk of spectrum across the country to be reserved for licensed use. the characteristics of that screen license exclusive use license because you need large transmitters, you know, when you're talking about big chunks of spectrum in large geographic markets, you're talking about powerful transmission that can go a long distance, and that means a lot of electricity behind it and big towers. that requires a lot of capital. people aren't going to invest in that type of capital if it's an exclusive-use license. so i'm a little skeptical of the nationwide big block of spectrum. so let's try to have unlicensed use. i think it can be very disruptive in a positive and constructive way to our economy
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and yield all sorts of innovation we can't even imagine right now, but it's probably going to be narrower slices. >> host: and we'll go back to todd shields of bloomberg news for more questions. >> thanks. on the unlicensed, it's an interesting concept. you mentioned needing big, powerful transmitters across big areas, but, of course, there's an alternative vision which is have a lot of smaller shrubbery, if you will. i'll work on the analogy more later, where we would have a lot of small wi-fi hot spots that would carry people's internet traffic. and i think that's some of what was behind the report you mentioned earlier about nationwide free service. now, whether anybody could build a network that thick and extensive and actually make it you pick bytously useful, i imagine, is another question. but there is a debate going on that you'll get to weigh in on which is when you design the auctions, how much of the airwaves should be devoted to these free, unlicensed uses versus should it be carpet
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remnant, or should it be a little bigger a chunk? to the extent you devote those to unlicensed uses, thai not selling it off to at&t, verizon, those competitors. where are you? a little bit of unlicensed use or a lot and see what happens with it? >> guest: i think we should try to auction as much as we can. if congress was content with broad broadcasters giving up six megahertz, we should auction that six megahertz. you can have both here. so your analogy of the shrubs is actually a good one -- [laughter] >> all right. >> guest: and we just voted out an item having that done in the five gigahertz range that would be shorter because of the propagation characteristics, the nature of that frequency, but also in the 600 area we could have that, 600 megahertz as well as 700 megahertz which is where the tv stations operate, not to
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get too technical here. but, so -- but back to a fundamental point about unlicensed, unlicensed services are secondary services. they have to yield the right of way, so to speak, to licensees. so if you are having sort of one company or a lot of companies build sort of proprietary networks in an unlicensed band, that doesn't really work because there's some licensee somewhere that can override that. if you think back when you were a kid you might have had a walkie-talkie, that was unlicensed, and you could hear the neighbor kids who also had walkie-talkies. or a baby monitor. that's all unlicensed. or kids who play pranks with garage door openers, walk over to the neighbor's garage and open the door and close it and stuff as a prank. so all that illustrates how chaotic it can be and how interference can result through unlicensed. so that's why you need to be very careful about how you approach this, and i think a mix
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of license, have as much license as you can, but in those gaps i think there's a very robust opportunity for unlicensed. i think it's very exciting, and it could be a win/win. of. >> host: is that the general feeling at the fcc? >> guest: i think there's mixed feeling, i'm not going to speak for my other commissioners, but i think there's going to be a of difference of opinion on this. >> host: last question on spectrum. >> guest: when the incentive auction happens, it'll be the biggest opportunity in many years to transform the use of those airwaves from television to the mobile devices for which there's great demand. in that opportunity should the fcc try to insure that smaller companies have an opportunity to buy a sufficient amount of airwaves to make sure there's a competitive landscape? and here i'm saying, asking whether it's just what should the fcc act to, let's be frank about it, to make sure at&t and
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verizon don't escape with the lion's share of the airwaves because they have more money than anybody else? >> guest: right. i think there is a way to give a home to small carriers, mid size companies and large size companies w. the 700 megahertz auction that was part of the digital television transition, i had actually proposed a ban plan that would have done just that. the plan that was adopted was not too different, but where you could have a home for all those. where it gets tricky is what kinds of conditions do you place. there were some conditions place inside the 700 megahertz auction that actually drove can large players into the principle blocks that we thought -- spectrum blocks that we thought smaller players would want, and those large players actually drove up the price because they were scared away by a certain regulation. so we don't want that to happen. but i think you can have a place and should have a place for smaller player, and i hope we will when we come out with the final order someday.
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>> host: you are watching "the communicators" on c-span. our guest this week, republican commissioner robert mcdowell of the federal communications reporter. our guest reporter, todd shields of bloomberg. next topic. >> you've been on the commission since 2006. the chairman's been on since, i believe, 2009. his term is up, yours will be up next year. should we expect to see some turnover at the commission? >> guest: well, you should always expect to see turnover because we all have staggered terms. >> right. >> guest: the past six years have flown by very quickly, and we shall see. i get asked this question every couple of years ago and when you've been there almost seven years, you get asked points like this, and i'm openly thinking about it, but we shall see. >> host: openly thinking about what? >> guest: about what to do next. i have thought about what comes after the commission. as a limited government person, i don't think we should stay in these positions forever, but at the same time i love my job, and that's part of what's keeping me
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here, and we have a lot of important work to do, so i have to balance those in the decision making. >> host: well, last week at the senate commerce committee the chairman, senator rockefeller, talked about violence in video games and wanted the fcc to have more control, further monitoring of violence in video games. what currently is the fcc's role when it comes to that issue, and how do you see that role? >> guest: when it comes to violation in video games? actually, we have no role. we can have a bully pulpit, but no legal or statutory role. i'm the father of three young children, so this is something we deal with as well in terms of of what types of content streaming over the internet or cable tv or video games, what do we as parents feel is appropriate for our children to be watching. but from a constitutional perspective, violence becomes tick key very quickly -- sticky very quickly. is a hockey game violet?
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is a cartoon violent? is the evening news violent? the answer could be yes to all those. so there's a first amendment issue there in terms of what can the government do. the fcc has no statutory authority to regulate violence, only indecency, and that's a different standard. and that's only over broadcast t and radio -- tv and radio, not over cable, satellite or the internet. i know this has been very important to chairman rock femmer -- rockfeller, and it's important to me as a parent. right now the fcc has no right to act. >> host: what if it did? >> guest: well, we would have to have a big direction from congress. >> host: todd shields. >> you mentioned indecency. where does enforcement stand at the fcc in wake of the supreme court's decision last summer which you can sum them up for me. they made it more difficult, as i recall, for the fcc to proceed in these areas.
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>> guest: the court did murky up the water. it was the second time that case had gone to the court, and each time the court decided to address this on the administrative law matter. so we don't have a lot of guidance from the court as to whether things like fleeting expletives are constitutional or not. and whether or not they want to redefine the earlier standard, the pacifica standard and things of that nature. so i think it would be helpful if the commission issued a public notice asking for public comment on what our standards should be. i think everyone would be better served if we had a defined standard going forward. i will say this, though, for a long time we had about a million and a half indecency complaints pending at the commission, a lot were against satellite and cable tv channels and such. and those aren't enforceable. so the commission has actually been able to dismiss or process the lion's share of those, so we're down to about half million
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from 1.5 million. that's an unwritten story, but i think the enforcement bureau, michelle ellison, gets a lot of credit as does chairman genachowski. >> host: should cell phones be allowed to be unlocked by consumers? >> guest: i brought my prop. thank you for letting me use my prop. so what we have here is a cell phone. this is a smartphone. it's packed full of intellectual property. i think we need to get beyond sort of the initial headlines of in the story which is sort of quirky with the copyright office saying it is now illegal for consumers to try to unlock their phones. it was, so what you have in here is you have coip wright-protected -- copyright-protected material, pat empty, and probably hundreds, if not thousands, right, in that device right there. so i want to make sure whatever happens in this area that we continue to have robust intellectual property protection, property rights protection and that we don't undermine the freedom to contract. so if consumers are informed and are well educated as to what
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their rights are, um, versus what the rights of either the device maker or the carrier might be, then i think we'll have a better marketplace. so going forward i think we all have a role, so that would be congress, the federal trade commission, the federal communications commission and others in terms of making sure we know exactly what we're talking about here. but we don't want to undermine intellectual property rights, and we want to allow consumers of to have the freedom to contract with those carriers and be able to transfer their devices around once they own the device. they'll own the device, but they won't necessarily own the copyright material and the license to it. >> and, in fact, the white house made it clear they support unlocking of devices when you're not under c. they're not -- under contract. they're not saying go out and get the contract and unlock your device the next day -- >> guest: exactly. and that's an important point. >> yeah, and i think that's
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messed. the idea is to prevent unlocking once the contract is finished. if i understand -- >> guest: you're absolutely right. i'm sure bloomberg reported that completely. >> we did. [laughter] >> guest: a lot of outlets didn't, so we had images of consumers being hauled off in handcuffs because they tried to open up their phones. let's dispel that right now, that's not happening, it's not going to happen, and you're absolutely right, once you own something or own the license to something, then you ought to be able to take it to your carrier of choice. and that's available now, by the way. so there's cell phone unlocking going on now even before whatever the copyright office did. >> host: todd shields. >> tell us about what's going on with the itu and internet freedom. i know this is a top you can you've spent time on. >> guest: thank you. the international television union has a long history going back into the 9th century. there was a -- 19th century. there was a big treaty negotiation in dubai this past
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december where for the first time the itu claimed control over the operations content and economics of the internet through some definition changes in the treaty. and it was a divided vote, about 40% of the countries that showed up for the vote did not sign onto this treaty, so about 55 countries did not sign on, about 89 did sign on, and about 49 countries at no time show up to the negotiation. now, the countries have until january 1 of 2015 to sign on to this treaty. in the meantime, there's a much bigger sort of constitutional convention that will go on in korea in november of 2014, and between now and then is a very crucial time for the internet and u.s. foreign policy. because there are steps and many meetings, international meetings across the globe that are going to happen between now and november 2014 that will shape that treaty outcome. it's the constitutional
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convention literally for the itu. they will elect a new secretary general, but by rewriting the constitution, the countries that have been pushing for international regulation of the internet will be able to take all their ideas a step forward. they've been very patient and persistent over the years, and they will not quit until their goals are realized. it sounds like black helicopter conspiracy theory stuff but, unfortunately, it's not as was evidenced in dubai last december. so i'm not optimistic. i'm in touch with our state department and our department of commerce both of who have a role here, and the good news here in the u.s. is that we're all unified, congress seems to be unified. we had a rare moment last year when there were house and senate resolutions passed unanimously by both chambers, really underscoring our country's view of internet freedom. and why that view is important to the developing world, for the future of the developing world. and that's what's really the motor heartbreaking here.
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there are a lot of -- most heartbreak here. there are a lot of nations that are signing on to this tree that that will undermine their economic and political future, and it might be some of these regimes are more authoritarian and don't want the freedom of information and other political freedom that might follow behind an unfettered internet. >> right. they want the ability to block traffic, if i understand it correctly, isn't that part of their agenda? >> guest: yes. local state-owned, if any, companies want to be able to charge web sites for consumers accessing web sites, they also want some international political cover for having one-stop shopping or chokepoints, one point of failure, one point of choking for content maybe under the guise of things like spam or network congestion or things like that. there will always be some other reason given that seems innocuous, but in reality i think the motives are much darker. >> host: so what -- if this passes and if this happens, what
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would, what's the result for the end user at home? >> guest: excellent question. so, you know, throughout the developing world i think it stunts the growth of the internet, and actually throughout the world that signs on to this, if you end up with a bifurcated internet with an iron curtain across it, so to speak, first of all, it becomes an engineering nightmare because the internet is a global network of networks without borders. various technologies transmit all that data. but it creates uncertainty, to answer your question directly. for consumers it's going to drift uncertainty and raise costs. so a lot of things that are free on the internet now, now may no longer be free because costs are being raised. and it could stop the growth of it. you know, what's hard to measure are innovations that never make it to market due to some sort of governmental action. you can't measure what never existed. and so that uncertainty alone, i think, will drive up costs and
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create some chaos and create a lot of engineering headaches. so hopefully, you know, our country and some others will stand strong. but what we really need to do is convince the developing world that this really is not good for the human condition overall and for the development of their countries. >> host: commissioner mcdowell, last week senator bill nelson of florida called for more information for the fcc to require more information under the disclose act. and for more political backing information to be displayed on ads. what do you think about that if. >> guest: so the disclose act regarding the disclosure of political donors or donors to groups that then air political ads of one form or another didn't pass, and so that's not the law of the land. so there's been an argument both from members of the house and senate that something called section 31 of the communications act -- 317 of the communications act of 1934, by the way, somehow
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gives us the authority to do it. basically, who pays for the ad to the broadcaster or who pays for the product being mentioned on the air. that has to be revealed. it does not speak to, nor did it contemplate when it was written in 1934 looking into all the donors, all of the contributors to any group that may have directly or indirectly funded the ad. so in short, i don't think we have the statutory authority to do this, and i don't think we're the right place for this debate. first of all, that debate should happen in congress, and there is a federal election commission that's all about revealing transparency in political donors and the whole political finance realm, so i think that's the better place for this. >> host: todd shields, we have time for one or two more questions. >> another authority question which was a long-ago battle, the net neutrality issue in which the fcc has issued rules claiming to insure that big companies don't interfere with
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my web content on the way into my house. that's been challenged in court. what happens if the court overturns the fcc, what happens if the court agree withs with it? >> guest: excellent question. the shortest day of the year, 2010 -- >> the darkest day. >> guest: you remember my statement. yes. [laughter] the darkest day for the fcc in 2010. so the idea that internet service providers would in an anti-competitive way interfere with consumers' internet traffic was at the heart of this. i argue that, first of all, there was no market study, and there was no problem to be solved. second of all, the fcc did not have the statutory authority to do what it did. there was an earlier court ruling in may or april, i guess, april of 2010 where there was a similar attempt, and the court struck down what the fcc did, sent it pack to the fcc -- back to the fcc to try to explain itself better. so with this order the fcc tried
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to explain itself better. but i want consumers to know that should that ever happen, which is really hypothetical, there are plenty of laws on the books, antitrust law, the potential of class action lawsuit, there are a lot of ways to have a legal disincentive for internet service providers to do that should they think it makes good business -- >> in addition to competitive disincentives. >> guest: exactly. as we have more last mile competition through wireless broadband with more and more consumers and the vast majority of consumers having a choice of at least four wireless broadband providers. plus the unlicensed use we talk about, that helps mix it up as well. but what i hope the fcc would do immediately is to close a docket known as the title ii docket. that would classify internet broadband access as a monopoly phone service, again, under the 1934 communications act. well, the internet operates completely differently from that, it would be a bad idea,
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and it would fuel this effort at the itu for there to be global regulation of the internet. and ironically, some of the companies that push for net neutrality early on like a google, they have thousands of miles of fiber and servers and routers, and they offer voice data and video services. i also just described at&t ask comcast and verizon. so from an engineering perspective, some of these companies will look just like telecom companies which means they're this close to being regulated globally as a monopoly phone service. if we do that in the united states under title ii, if we crassfy internet broadband -- classify internet broadband service as a monopoly service, it will be catastrophic for the internet economy. >> host: commissioner mcdowell, as always, appreciate you being op "the communicators." todd shields with bloomberg, you as well. >> thank you, enjoyed it. >> guest: thanks for having us. >> c-span, created by america's cable companies in